We all wear our uniform every day, and when we do, we become part of a cohesive community as a school. This year there have been changes to the sports uniform, and that got me thinking about what goes on behind the scenes at Oundle.
At Oundle there is a Uniform Committee, which meets once a term to discuss issues they have discovered and to assess the uniform overall. Mrs. Makhzangi is the chairman of this committee, so I decided to talk to her about everything that goes into uniform decisions. In the committee there are several teachers from different areas of the School, as well as the Heads of School, representing the pupil body. If any decisions are to be made, the committee contacts the School’s uniform supplier, Schoolblazer, to get their opinions. Lots of thought goes into changes, with fabrics, timeframes and much more needing to be considered, and then, if the change goes past those stages, designs are made and altered using Computer Aided Design.
I wanted to know the reasons for the change to the sports uniform, as well as some more general information. Mrs Makhzangi explained that there were many issues with the old sports uniform, so there was a lot of pressure on the school to change it. To begin with the material used was very outdated, meaning it would take several washes to clean it and a long time to dry it fully, which was extremely damaging to the environment. The overall costs of the sports uniform alone were huge, both for the School and for the parents, who had to buy many different tops. The new uniform means parents don’t need to buy as many sport tops and the School can reduce the costs by around 20%, according to Mrs. Makhzangi.
There had also been complaints about the sports kit from parents and pupils. Many pupils found the tracksuits and other bits of kit didn’t fit them well and were uncomfortable to wear, so when the uniform changed, the school made sure that it was more inclusive. Regarding the new sports kit, the Uniform Committee is always ready to hear feedback from the pupils, but Mrs. Makhzangi says that a certain level of realism needs to be reached, as there is no way to make the uniform perfect for everyone, and that must always be remembered.
In the future, the uniform might change to keep up with the ever-changing professional world. Standards are changing and society’s norms are progressing, and being professional is becoming less and less linked to how someone dresses themselves. But will Oundle’s standards change as well? Oundle’s uniform ensures its pupils appear professional and presentable, and the School hopes we can take pride in our uniforms. The uniform contributes to a focused workplace environment and promotes learning for all pupils and teachers. It is extremely important to Oundle to keep the uniform traditional and acceptable in the most conventional way, so further change is probably unlikely.
However, many things have happened that fifty years ago would have been considered preposterous – the eventual admission of girls, for example – so no one really knows right now. Change is important for everything; it’s how we grow as people and how the world can progress, but some people are wary of change; no one knows what can come of it, and it can be intimidating at times. School uniform would be a fitting place to begin if Oundle were to stray away from tradition and convention. If the uniform changes, other aspects of School life would surely follow suit.
As a final thought, the uniform at Oundle brings together everyone as a community and allows the pupils to appreciate the tradition of the School that has formed over the last 450 years. It is important for all of us, and something to be celebrated while we are a part of the School. But in a world where everything is unsure, should we stick to what we know, or should we express our individuality?